My Top Ten
Submission by Chris Skellhorn

I'm sitting in front of the computer. It's quarter to one in the morning, but I'm feeling mellow, and I've just listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. This is one album that I can play over and over. And when I do play it, I always play the entire CD without jumping or skipping tracks. This is one of only two albums I own that I do this with; all the others have a few tracks played or a few ignored.
The other album is Hamburger Concerto by Focus.
So, as I say, 0:47, and there's several jobs that I should be getting on with, so I sit and write this for The Crypt instead!! :-)
While I was listening to Mr Waters & Co., I started thinking of other albums that I really like listening to, which gave me the whole idea for this series (HA!! That means there'll be more!!)
But instead of listing music, I'll list my top ten favourite cars.


Number 10

Morris Minor

When I first clapped eyes on the little Moggy that was destined to be my first car, it had been languishing in a garage in Haverhill for three years. I was not deterred, I was in love with that little car!
It was a Dove Grey 2-door saloon, of 1961 vintage, with the 948cc OHV engine. On a good day, I could top 58 mph!

A mate of mine had a 1967 model in Ambassador Blue, but his had a 1098cc mill, and would leave mine in the dust! Until one night he rounded a bend a little quickly. Nothing spectacular happened, but the inside rear wheel lifted, he over-revved it, and snapped the crankshaft.
I went better than that. About a year later, also rounding a bend a little too enthusiastically, the back of mine slid out and I over-corrected. My Moggy fell over. Multiple broken and bent bits of Minor later sent it to that great service area in the sky.

I was heart-broken!

My mate though, put another crankshaft in the engine, nicked the cylinder head, exhaust manifold, inlet manifold and twin carbs off a Riley One Point Five (or a Wolesley 1500!) and re-built the motor.
During the relining of his brakes, he realised that one rear wheel was an inch taller than the other!
Fearing that the differential may not like this set-up, he had a rummage under his bench and came out with another diff, which he bunged in. He thinks it may have been a Marina unit, as it fitted with no problem.

Some time later, I was chasing him in my newly-acquired Hillman Imp. The Imp ran out of puff at just over 70, but he just floored it and took off!
Two days after that, a customer demanded to see what he'd done to the Minor, as his Triumph Stag only crawled past at 118!

Number 9

Citroen 2CV

I have never owned one of these, but I have driven several. Including an ex-Belgian Post office van example.
The van had deckchair style seats, an air-cooled 'flat'-twin engine, and a peculiar gearchange layout, all housed in a little corrugated hen house box.
I looked upon this vehicle with dismay when first asked to drive it.

But I got in, fired up the food-mixer, er, sorry, engine, and engaged first gear.
Idiosyncracy no 1. This little beast has an epicyclic clutch! Normally as you let the clutch out you expect to feel some movement.
"Give her a few revs," suggested the instructor.

A few revs later, and we started to move! Due to that clutch, the Belgian Postie can trundle up to the first door on his round and leap out "avec le parcel for Monseur without taking the van out of gear!! Leap back in, boot throttle, hurtle to next drop, apply handbrake, and heave "le parcel out to Monseur le Customeur number deux".
As can be expected from a roaring 400cc engine, performance was not exactly sparkling, and the original remit (for the car anyway) was that Monseur le Farmeur had to be able to wear his top hat in it whilst carrying a full basket of eggs on the back seat.

Across a ploughed field!


This is something else I have not tried.
What I did try was the flat-out speed (77 km/h or 48 mph) on the straight.
Cornering is a completely different situation in a Deux Chevaux. Approach even the shallowest of bends at virtually any speed, and any movement on the tiller results in the car heaving over like a ship in a gale, until you expect to hear the door-handles scrape on the ground!
If ever you get a chance to have a burble in a 2CV, grab it!! After my experience with the little Sprout, I couldn't get the grin off my face!!

Number 8

Renault 15 TS

This was the fifth car I'd owned.
Although based on the Renault 12 floor-pan, this car has 3-door coupe styling. It also had a 1565cc OHC engine and a twin-choke Weber.
That little snippet may mean nothing to many, but one day, I was chasing a friend in a 2-litre Capri, and I could stay with him (just!)
He declared afterwards that he'd almost run out of steam (we'd touched 115 mph!!)

Before Mrs. Cuddles and I married, we went on holiday to Cornwall in the Renault, and we stopped in London for a few days on the way back. We did almost 700 miles in about 9 days without a hiccup.
In two years, the only times I had to lay spanners on that car were when a big lump of grit got caught in one of the brake calipers, and gouged the disc (new disc + set of pads, about 25) and when an oil seal on the back of the camshaft sprung a leak.

Now to replace the oil seal, you're supposed to remove the engine, and then some ancillaries. Fit new seal, pressing into place with specialist Renault tool, and re-build. Total time, about 5 hours. I hadn't got the space to oik the mill out, so I took off the alternator, cambelt drive sprocket and the cover plate, removed the old seal, pressed the new one into place, using a special Skelhorn tool (Sprocket bolt and very big socket!) and rebuild. Total time, 2 hours 15 mins!

That aside, the 15 was a joy to drive. It was fast on motorway work, and very tractible around town. It was quiet, and easy to drive. In fact, the only thing that let it down were the plastic seat coverings.
Oh yes, and the day my Mum got in the back and nearly couldn't get out!

Number 7

Ford Anglia 100E

The 100E was available in five flavours. The 2-door model was the Anglia and the 4-door was the Prefect. The stripped-down 2-door was the Popular, the basic Anglia estate car was the Escort, while the de-luxe Prefect estate was known as the Squire. The Squire also had wood strakes down the sides.

The Anglia's radiator grille had tiny little square holes, like a potato chipper, the Popular had three big bold horizontal bars, and the Prefect's grille resembled a bread slicer. Both models were powered by the 1172cc side-valve engine, mated to a three-speed gearbox, and were capable of a shaving over 70 mph. The Prefect had a few more toys than the Anglia; twin sun visors, twin wipers and an interior lamp! And a heater was extra, no matter which variant you bought.

The two estate cars were basically the van bodyshell, but with a horizontally split tailgate instead of twin doors, and the saloon trim.
Later Prefect models had the 997cc OHV engine and gearbox from the Anglia 105E, and were still available until the Escort Mk 1 arrived in 1967.
My little Anglebox was a pale blue 1962 Mk 2 de-luxe (as it had chrome bumpers and a chrome stripe along it's flanks). It also had Austin 1100 front seats, and a horrible wobble to the steering at anything over 45 mph!
The Anglia was easy to drive, and being so under-powered, it was nigh on impossible to get into any trouble with.

The interior although spartan, was spacious, even with five people, and there was a good sized boot. Fuel economy was always high thirties, considering I've a heavy right foot, that was remarkable.
One big downer was those horrible vacuum-operated wipers. When the engine was ticking over, the wiper switch could vary the wiper speed from just moving to a blur, but when the car was moving at any speed, the wipers slowed down to such an extent that they were useless!

Number 6

Morris Marina 1700

The Morris Marina was only ever supposed to be a stop-gap solution. Before BLMC (as they were then) could fight off the onslaught of Ford's new repmobile, the Mark 3 Cortina, they had to have a miracle.
But whilst waiting for deliverance, they took a Minor and made some vast adjustments. So, while the Marina looks a different animal, the underpinnings ('A' series engine, Torsion bars on the front, cart-springs at the stern, and rack and pinion steering) are of the same Issigonis style.

My first Marina was a 1300 saloon, but the estate was bigger, and with a 1700 OHC motor, had much more grunt! And for quite a reasonably sized car, handling was very nimble. The 'O' series engine was far better than the 'B' it replaced. Fuel consuption was always in the high thirties, moving up to mid '40's in favourable conditions.
The comfort level was better than adequate, and the handling felt more responsive than the Cortina. The Ford always seemed much more bulky, although it was actually only 2 inches wider!

The buying populace, put off British products by the British worker (who tended to go on strike if their tea wasn't the right temperature!) decided that "Johnny Foreigner", especially those from the land of the rising sun could build a better rust-bucket, so they bought Honda, Datsun and Toyota products instead.
My Marina estate was assembled in The Netherlands, so I didn't have too many problems with it!

Number 5

Jaguar Mark II

I've always had a somewhat love/hate relationship with Mk II's.
I love the style and grace of them, but hated having to work on them!
Because they were assembled out of 'proper' metal, they were heavy. Consequently, everything was beefed up accordingly,which added to the weight.
I didn't mind it's luxurious stable-mate, the Daimler V8, but the Jaguar seemed to have more of the 'gentleman hooligan' about it.

Handling for a car of it's size and weight, was adequate, but not wonderful.
The Jaguar body was quite compact without being cramped, and the engines produced an excellent power-to-weight ratio, but the earlier gearboxes proved to be a disappointment.
Don't get me wrong, there were no inherent weaknesses in it, and the gear spacing was OK, but the fact remains that they were so noisy! With the rest of the car being engineered to such a high standard, the amount of noise was intrusive to the point of annoyance.

One thing that let the big cat down (as with many other cars of the same era) was the propensity for 'elegance' stretching to the steering wheel. This meant that the spokes were made as thin as possible, so that the instruments could be seen at all times. Now, if one was trying to hustle rapidly around country lanes, would one be gawping at the speedo? I sincerely hope not! If I saw a Mk II hurtling at speed towards me, I rather hope that the pilot would be taking some note of the traffic!
But the point I was trying to make is that with most of these cars, not only were the spokes thin, the rim of the wheel was thin too! And it was made of wood, with a high polish on it!
This means that not only was it pencil-thin, it was slippery! No wonder we all 'forgot' the ten-to-two driving position and resorted to using the spokes for tiller control!

Number 4

Fiat 500

The tiny bubble that was the Fiat 500 has seen millions of admirers.
There are many still puttering about Great Britain today, and in its native Italy, where the elements have been much kinder, there are thousands, passed down from father to son, like a family heirloom.

With a sweet little 500cc twin cylinder engine mounted in the rear, top speed is on a par with the Citroen 2CV, although the suspension ensures that there is much less body roll than the French car.
The little round Italian (the car, not the people!) was originally only available as a two-door saloon, but soon gained estate style body treatment, to give a little extra luggage space.

There was also a special order only door-less, open-top variant, complete with wicker interior!
Ultimately, the car was replaced by the bland, boxy Fiat 126. Although the 126 shared many mechanical components with the older car, it had lost nearly all of the 'cute' factor it needed to be a success.

Number 3

Daf 44

The little Daf has been beloved of whole generations of Dutch people. There was a certain chic appeal to it, similar to that of the Mini and the later 2CV's.
Unlike either of those cars though, the 44 was available as a formal saloon (with a reasonable sized boot) or as an estate car.
In 1972, only two levels of trim were available, Confort and De Luxe. De Luxe added a chrome stripe, better upholstery, heated rear window, and wheel-trims to the Confort package.

The secret of the Daf was it's strange, stepless transmission.
The gearbox was mounted immediately in front of the rear axle, and contained a system of pulleys and belts.
Basically, the front pulley was the smaller and the rear one was larger, but as road speed increased, the front pulley got larger, forcing the belt deeper into the rear pulley, thus increasing output speed.
It was odd to drive, because everything tells you to expect the engine revs to rise as the car goes faster. The Daf didn't do that. Engine would rev up to around 4,500 rpm and then the car would accelerate to 'catch up' with it!

Number 2

Citroen 11CV (Traction Avant)

The meaning of Traction Avant is literally 'Front Wheel Drive'.
This was Andre Citroen's first foray into such a sphere. The car was designed in two chunks; the engine, transmission, steering, front running gear, all bolted together, and that in turn was bolted to two large 'horns' mounted at the front end of the monocoque bodyshell.
This meant that the front and rear could be unbolted for major surgery without too much fuss.

Because there was no separate chassis, the entire structure was much lighter, and as it had been designed to replace a larger car, the rear seat passengers had ample leg-room despite sitting forward of the rear wheels.
There was to have been a wonderful new engine powering this machine, but it wasn't completed in time.
What it did have was the pioneering hydro-pneumatic rear suspension. This allowed the back end of the car to ride at the same height, regardless of the vehicle load.

Further developments to the bodywork meant that at one stage no less than 27 variants were available, including 3 open sportsters, several booted and unbooted saloons, a long wheelbase limousine, a Commerciale and an 8-seat people carrier!
The people carrier and the Commerciale shared the same body, but the Commereciale had alift up tailgate and folding seats. This was so that Monseur le Farmeur can carry "le mange-tout et cabbages" to market on le market day, and cart "Madame le Farmeur avec le kids" to church on le Sunday mornings.

The limousine was developed so that Monseur le Businessman could cross his legs in le back without kicking the chauffeur's hat off.
This is not to be confused with the standard long wheelbase saloon (which only had 2 side windows as opposed to the limo's 3) which Maigret rode in the back of.
Several models were assembled at Slough, until Citroen announced the all new DS (pronounced Day-asse)

Number 1

Ford Zephyr-Zodiac Mark II

The Ford Zephyr-Zodiac was THE car to drive if you couldn't afford the Jaguar Mark II.
The Zephyr and the Zodiac were considered big at the time, although they aren't more than a couple of inches longer than a Mondeo. They were fitted with a straight six 2553cc engine. This would ensure the car 100 mph performance.
In fact, when the British motorways were first built, there was no speed limit! It was legally possible to take any vehicle to its maximum speed.

Sadly, they were also fitted with those dire vacuum-powered windscreen wipers! At 70 mph in the rain, these things would crawl over the windscreen, and when sitting at the lights would flap around like things demented.
I was talking to a friend who was a lorry driver in the early sixties, and he'd seen some horrific accidents on the M1 near Newport Pagnell. Just outside the Aston-Martin works. A.M. used the motorway for test purposes!
Imagine what would happen at around 3 am when a half-asleep lorry driver (no tachographs or log books then either!) travelling north at 35 mph gets tupped by a DB5 topping 110!

You don't need me to tell you that its brown trousers time!
Now, the cost of an Aston (then as now) is far beyond the reach of us ordinary mortals, as indeed was the aforementioned Jag.
So, what to do?
At that point in time we have the nearly racy MG Magnette, Riley's 6/72 (or a Pathfinder, if you were lucky!), the Austin Westminster (a six-pot Austin Cambridge)
All of which were capable of 90 - 95 mph.

Wolesley came up with a goodie. Stick a dirty great fan on the end of a starter motor and whack it into a box. Insert two pipes into the box. Attach one end to the exhaust pipe, and let the other end vent to atmosphere. Switching the system on was supposed to cause much suck on the exhaust, and the resultant depression in the pipe would allow the engine to 'breathe' a little more freely.
It did work. The acceleration time of the Wolesley 6/90 was reduced from 3 days to 2!!
The baddies favourite motor was the Mk II Jaguar.

The cash-strapped fuzz bought Zephyrs, as they could keep up with the Jag.
I remember seeing the odd Zephyr fuzz-buggy zooming around in the early sixties. The plod then replaced them with the Mark 3 Zephyr, and they then got replaced with Mark 4's.
The Mark 4 Zephyr/Zodiac/Executive series was a real danger to shipping!!
These lumbering great beasts wallowed like a drunken hippo, and had all the directional qualities of a demented butterfly! It was a bit like taking Granny's sofa for a drive.
But back to the Mark 2 Zephyr.

The sheer style of these cars is legendary. They had all the fifties gear, before it went garish, and one of the best two-tone paint jobs around.
An optional extra was a 'dog-leg' of chrome that started in the upper forward corner of the front wheel arch, angled forwards and upwards at around 45 degrees. When it met the waistline, it angled straight backwards. The idea was to paint the lower section in a colour complementary to the main colour. My Dad's was Buttermilk with Antelope, but some Zody's were Tangerine with White, Pale Green with White, White with Pale Green, and also Black with Maroon.
These cars were predominantly 4-door saloons, but some were convertibles, and some were estate models.
The convertibles looked their best when the top was down on a sunny day.

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